The fact that Ignatius refers to bishops, a council of elders, and deacons does not necessarily mean that the bishop presides over several churches in a region [see Smyr. 8.1 and many other places in Ignatius]. It may just mean that he is the lead elder. He is an elder, and the elders are bishops, but he is called bishop because he is singled out from the rest. This would parallel a contemporary situation in which some churches speak of their pastor and their elders, even though the elders are pastors and the pastor is an elder.
Hall, David D. A Reforming People: Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England. New York: Knopf, 2011.
Hall carefully debunks the idea that the Puritans were religious authoritarians who opposed liberty in the new world and oppressed those who differed from their theology. In doing so, Hall demonstrates that the liberal idea of freedom that dominates contemporary culture is not the only possible conception of freedom. The Puritans did not understand authority and liberty as opposites. Rather, they are interrelated and mutually checked by recognized "obligation and limits."
Kruger, Michael J. Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
The canon is an inherently difficult topic because it reaches down to the foundations of Christian authority. To ask the Christian to justify his belief that the 27 books and only the 27 books of his New Testament are God’s new covenant revelation is akin to asking the rationalist to justify his rationalism or the empiricist to justify his empiricism. Canonicity has become even more complicated today with claims that a New Testament canon was not conceived until centuries after Christ and with assertions that various Gnostic or otherwise unorthodox texts have just as much a claim to represent authentic Christianity as the books of the New Testament.
Michael Kruger enters this discussion with a specific aim. This book is not an apologetic designed to win over the skeptic. He is instead seeking to provide the Christian with a model that can show his embrace of the New Testament canon is epistemically justified.
Kruger begins by surveying and evaluating three broad approaches to determining the canon: (1) "community determined," (2) "historically determined," and (3) "self-authenticating."
Within these broad categories are found several diverse models. For instance, the Roman Catholic model, the historical-critical model, and Childs’s canon-criticism are all "community determined" despite the great differences between them. Historically, orthodox Protestants from the Reformation onward have eschewed the "community determined" approach, though Craig Allert has recently attempted to popularize it among evangelicals. Many of the current challenges to the traditional cannon come from models in this category. In this chapter Kruger evaluates each model individually, but his basic overall critique is that "these models are left with a canon that is derived from and established by the church, and thus is unable to rule over the church" (66).
The second broad approach, "historically determined," is more familiar to evangelicals. Contained under this category is the "criteria-of-canonicity" model advocated by the Princetonians and many modern evangelicals. In this model religiously neutral historical investigation seeks to establish that the books of the canon match such criteria as apostolicity, antiquity, and orthodoxy. Kruger doubts, however, that Christians should approach theological questions with studied historical neutrality. He notes, "to authenticate the canon on the basis of a supposedly independent, neutral standard ultimately subjects the canon to an authority outside itself. It allows autonomous human assessment of historical evidence to become an external authority over God’s Word" (79-80). Kruger also notes three problems with the criteria themselves. First, there is no evidence that the early Christians did any choosing of which books were and were not canonical based on the proposed criteria. They received, rather than chose, the canonical books. Second, even if the early church did use the various proposed criteria, one must establish that they used the correct criteria. Third, it is not clear that criteria such as apostolicity can be established by neutral historical work.
Kruger argues that the canon is self-authenticating. He is not arguing for a subjective, fideistic approach to the canon. He will, in fact, incorporate the strengths of both the community and historically-determined models into his own. Rather Kruger is advocating an approach that is already found in Calvin, Turretin, and the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Reformers and their heirs argued for canonicity on the basis of divine qualities found in the canonical books themselves. Kruger makes this one plank of his model. However, he also says that that the canon itself gives other criteria. Because the testimony of the Spirit to the voice of the Lord is corporate and not merely individual, the reception of books by the church is another plank in Kruger’s model. Also, since the New Testament gives a foundational role to the apostles and their teaching, apostolicity forms the third plank. In Kruger’s model the Holy Spirit testifies to the authenticity of the canon by enabling the church to see its divine qualities, its apostolic origins, and the confirming reception by the church throughout history.
In the remainder of the book, Kruger explains and defends these three planks. For instance, he includes a chapter in which he defines and defends the internal divine qualities of the Scriptural books. He has a chapter on apostolicity in which, among other things, he demonstrates from Scripture that the apostolic writers knew they were writing Scripture. He spends most of his time (three chapters) on the third plank, community reception, since this is where most of the current debate takes place. Kruger effectively challenges the late canon views of men such as Lee Martin McDonald. He also helpfully discusses what may be termed "problem books"—books whose canonicity was not immediately and universally recognized.
Kruger has done an excellent job updating and extending the classic Protestant approach to canonicity in light of present day challenges. This is now the best book on the canon available.
Wright, N. T. How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels. New York: HarperOne, 2012.
In this book N. T. Wright explores the purpose of Jesus’s earthly ministry as presented in the Gospels. He is concerned that historically, the church has focused on the incarnation and passion of Christ and ignored his ministry (apart from appeals to its proving his deity or making possible his active obedience). Wright realizes that major problems ensue when the middle of the Gospel story is divorced from the ends (incarnation and cross), and he highlights the Social Gospel as the primary example of that problematic approach. His goal in this volume is to integrate the whole.
Before preceding with his positive argument Wright first surveys six inadequate (though not entirely wrong) answers:
- "To teach people how to go to heaven" (42)—Wright focuses on the fact that heaven is not the biblical goal but a renewed earth. Eternal life is not about disembodied souls in a timeless state but about life on earth in the age to come. He is correct about this. But if going to heaven is translated "to enjoying eternal life in the age to come," this is a question that Jesus addresses at key points in his ministry, Nicodemus and the Rich Young Ruler being key examples.
- To provide people with an ethic for life—Wright is rightly concerned that Jesus not be reduced to another Buddha or Muhammad who taught religious truths to people. However, when contextualized in the larger picture of Jesus’s ministry, Wright correctly embraces the idea that Jesus was teaching people how they ought to live.
- To provide a moral example—Wright grants that Jesus is an example to be followed in some particular ways (e.g.,, 1 Cor. 11:1 or Mark 8:34). But he rejects this answer for two reasons. First, Jesus is not an example that we are able to copy. We just can’t live up to his standard. Second, Jesus is doing unique things in his life that no one is supposed to try to imitate.
- "His perfect life means that he can be the perfect sacrifice" (50)—Wright is willing to grant the Bible does present Jesus as the sinless sacrifice and that his sinless life is part of this. He notes John 8:46 (cf. Mark 10:18); 2 Cor. 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5; Luke 23:14-15, 22, 31, 41, 47 (p. 50). Wright rejects, however, the Reformed teaching that Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic law and its teaching about Jesus’s active obedience (Romans 5:19) (p. 51). Overall, Wright concludes, "But, beyond these passages [noted above], the gospels show no interest whatever in making the link that much traditional teaching has employed. If that was what they were trying to say, you’d think they would have made it a bit clearer" (51). But Wright himself has assembled an impressive array of passages that make this point. He could add to this the Old Testament background that stands behind Mark 10:45, and he could factor in the significance of the temptation accounts which stand at the beginning of the Synoptic Gospels’ presentation of Jesus. This seems to be an important element that should play a role in whatever answer is given the question of the significance of Jesus’s ministry.
- To provide us with stories "so we can identify with the characters in the story and find our own way by seeing what happened to them" (52)—Wright again acknowledges that this is a possible and legitimate use, but he doesn’t believe it is reason the Gospels were written.
- "To demonstrate the divinity of Jesus" (and his humanity) (53)—Wright believes the Gospel writers would have affirmed Jesus these points, but he says even John who opens with this theme does not make it the major theme of his gospel. Rather, John, and all the gospels are "to tell us what this embodied God is now up to" (54). Wright’s affirmation is correct, but his denial is too sharp. My study of Mark has led me to conclude that demonstrating the deity of Jesus is a major theme of the Gospel from its opening verses.
Wright responds that the gospels are actually "trying to say that this is how God became king" (57). This is a good summary of the message of the four Gospels (and despite Wright’s rather annoying rhetoric of having discovered a lost theme that has been missing from the church until he wrote this book, this theme can be found in Herman Ridderbos’s The Coming of the Kingdom and in the writing of dispensationalists such as Craig Blaising).
In turning toward making a positive argument, Wright highlights four themes found in all the gospels. He thinks some of these themes are over-emphasized and some are under-emphasized. Getting these four themes correctly balanced is, in Wright’s view, essential to understanding the Gospel message about Jesus’s life. The themes are:
(1) "the story of Israel"—Wright laments that the Gospels have been read as the solution to the sin problem of Genesis 3, skipping over the story of Israel entirely, or looking at it as a "plan A" that went wrong with the gospel as a "plan B" that allows people to be saved by faith without having "to keep that silly old law" (84-85). In Wright’s view Jesus is "the climax of the story of Israel"; he is "Israel’s supreme representative" who finally does bring about God’s purposes for Israel (183). Wright’s emphasis on the importance of the story of Israel is commendable. Israel is the national focal point of the Old Testament for significant reasons, and the New Testament must not be cut loose from the Old. But Israel’s story is set within the larger human story that begins to go wrong in Genesis 3. Wright is wrong to minimize the Gospels as presenting the solution to the problem that begins there. Wright’s comments about not having to keep the "silly old law" are over the top. No serious scholar argues for that. Furthermore, he should not so lightly dismiss the plot of God giving Israel a law that the could not keep and then replacing that law covenant with a new covenant. That is the story that Deut. 28-30 plots explicitly from the beginning (and he ends up summarizing Israel’s story similarly less than a hundred pages later, compare 84-85 with 178-79).
(2) "the story of Jesus as the story of Israel’s God"—Wright thinks that the emphasis of Jesus as God has been overemphasized. In his view, it obscures the more subtle ways that that the Synoptics identify Jesus as Israel’s God. It is this that causes people to think John has a high Christology and the Synoptics have a low one. Wright has a point. Jesus is not a generic god incarnate. A tight connection to the Old Testament history and prophecies is important. Nonetheless, Wright seems to write as though conservatives, who have staunchly defended the deity and humanity of Christ in the gospels, and the liberals, who in his view misread the Gospels in different ways, are equivalently in error and in need of his setting things right. This is not fair or accurate.
(3) the "launching of God’s renewed people"—Wright laments the tendency in critical circles to read the gospels simply "as the projection of early Christian faith, reflecting the controversies and crises of the early church" (105). Wright doesn’t think it proper to say the Gospels are about "founding the church," since "there already was a ‘people of God.’" Nonetheless, Wright does think "the gospels are telling the story of the launching of God’s renewed people" (112). In other words, Jesus accomplished Israel’s vocation and enabled God’s plan to move forward in new ways. Wright’s critique of the old community-produced Gospels approach is on target. But the story he sees about "God’s renewed people" seems all too similar to what is often called replacement theology. To be sure, Wright takes pains to emphasize that he does not believe Israel has been "replaced" or "abandoned." He argues Israel has been "fulfilled" and "transformed." But in terms of position, rather than labels, Wright view is that of "replacement theology," which I believe to be a problematic position for a number of reasons (see Michael Vlach’s Has the Church Replaced Israel). (I’m inclined to treat opposing viewpoints according to the golden rule; for instance I can sympathize with the discomfort of some with the label "limited atonement" and am happy to use "particular redemption" as a more felicitous label; likewise, I’d be willing to use terms other than replacement theology or supersessionism if those who hold those positions had a term that they thought reflected their viewpoint more accurately. At present, however, I know of no alternate terminology.)
(4) the "clash of the kingdoms" of God and Caesar—Wright insists there is not mere a generic kingdom of God versus kingdom of the devil conflict in the gospels (and in the rest of the NT, for that matter), but a specific kingdom of God versus kingdom of Caesar conflict. I believe this is Wright’s weakest point. It seems to me that Scripture emphasizes the clash between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. Often Caesar is aligned with Satan against God’s kingdom, but Caesar can also be called God’s servant. I think Wright has done too much reading between the lines on this score. Furthermore, Wright’s commendable tendency to ground Scripture in its historical context sometimes causes him to emphasize historical particularities when those are actually instances of broader, universal points. This appears in his handling of justification, and I think this is another instance of it.
When these four themes are rightly understood, it becomes evident, Wright says, that the Gospels are about "how God became king." But this raises the question of how Jesus’s message of kingdom proclamation and the cross integrate. Wright devotes part 3 of this book to answering that question. But before he delves into this topic, Wright takes a brief detour to argue against the Enlightenment idea that religion is a private matter about how individuals can be "spiritual." In order to understand how kingdom and cross fit together, Wright argues that the privatization of Enlightenment religion must be rejected. Christianity is a public religion that speaks to all of life rather than a private spirituality. Wright’s critique of the Enlightenment is right on target.
But the question remains: how do kingdom and cross come together? Wright says that Jesus climaxes the story of Israel by suffering as Israel’s representative. His suffering now means the story of Israel can move forward. But it is not just Israel, through its representative that suffers, but God himself who suffers. "God himself will come to the place of pain and horror, of suffering and even of death, so that somehow he can take it upon himself and thereby set up his new style theocracy at last" (196). Jesus’s suffering renewed God’s people, and they follow him by sharing in his suffering which "somehow has the more positive effect of carrying forward the redemptive effect of Jesus’s own death" (201). It is through their suffering that the church advances Jesus’s kingdom. Then end result is that through the cross the kingdom of Christ triumphs over the kingdom of Caesar. Wright’s primary weakness in this section is his dismissal of historic views of the atonement (a secondary weakness is his preterism). He speaks of "distortions that result when people construct an ‘atonement theology’ that bypasses the gospels" (196). But when he describes the atonement, he says, "God himself will come to the place of pain and horror, of suffering and even of death, so that somehow he can take it upon himself" (196, emphasis added). Throughout this section, the atonement is described with the vagueness of "somehow." This vagueness makes Wright’s attempt to connect kingdom and cross less than satisfying.
Wright closes by engaging with those who are part of the theological interpretation of Scripture project. He affirms their critique of historical critical scholarship, but he critiques their abandonment of history and their dependence on the creeds. He is not convinced that the creeds alone will guide believers to faithful interpretations of Scripture. Wright argues that the creeds need to continue to be refined by (historically grounded) approaches to Scripture. He does not want to abandon the creeds, but he does want to enrich them by expanding and recontextualizing (with Scripture) their phrases. This critique of theological interpretation does strike at a particular weakness among many theological interpreters. They should reckon with the arguments he makes here. However, Wright too often has precisely the opposite weaknesses: lack of familiarity with historical theology, a tendency to over-historicize Scripture, and a quickness to abandon traditional theology in favor of new perspectives.
Blaising, Craig A. and Darrell L. Bock. Progressive Dispensationalism. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.
The most helpful chapter in this book was Blaising’s chapter on the history of Dispensationalism. As a freshman I recall being confused by Ryrie’s insistence on literal interpretation when Scofield obviously did not always follow that method. Blaising cleared up that confusion by documenting, among other things, changes in dispensational hermeneutics. Bock’s chapters on hermeneutics and Blaising’s closing practical chapter were mildly helpful. The core of the book on the covenants and the kingdom contained helpful material.
Kauflin, Bob. Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.
The heart of the book unpacks Kauflin’s thesis concerning the task of a worship leader: "A faithful worship leader magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit skillfully combining God’s Word with music thereby motivating the gathered church to proclaim the gospel, to cherish God’s presence, and to live for God’s glory." This is an excellent statement that would serve well in any good church music ministry. Overall, Kauflin does a good job in expounding each aspect of this thesis.
Other positives abound in the book. Kauflin has a high view of the Scriptures and of the importance of sound doctrine in Christian worship. He rightly includes preaching as part of worship; he does not limit worship to the musical part of the service alone. He wants musicians to be proficient but not to show off. Music ministry should not be emotionally manipulative. Their proficiency should undergird the worship; it should not contribute to a concert mentality. He calls on worship leaders and band members to avoid sensuality in both their dress and "vocal inflections" (48).
Even in the section on musical styles Kauflin rightly argues that the "music should serve the lyrics" (100). But he is weakest in his arguments in favor of using all styles of music in worship. His primarily argument is that the unity of the church should be centered on the gospel and not on musical styles. He grounds this unity in diversity in the nature of God: "Musical diversity reflects the varying aspects of God’s nature. He is transcendent and immanent. He splits mountains and clothes the lilies. We worship him as our Creator and Redeemer, King and Father. How can anyone think that a single kind of music could adequately express the fullness of God’s glory?" (104). Kauflin has stated a number of truths. But it does not follow that every musical style glorifies God. Al Wolters argues that fundamental to a Christian worldview is that all of God’s creation is essentially good, that the Fall affects every aspect of God’s good creation, and that redemption will extend as far as the Fall. It is the middle point that Kauflin is not reckoning with. It is true that various cultures have differing styles of music that may and even should be used. But it does not follow that all styles in every culture are acceptable. To assert this would be to assert that the Fall has affected every aspect of creation except musical styles. Finally, it is strange to assert that musical diversity should be employed to demonstrate the unity of the church when, in practice, introducing pop music into the church has been divisive for many congregations. Our unity is in the gospel and not in musical styles, but insofar as musical styles connect to our sanctification, they impinge on the gospel. Thus those who resist bringing Fall-distorted styles into the church are right in their resistance and those who introduce them bring division to the church that is, by their own standard, unnecessary.
The penultimate section of Worship Matters deals with tensions (e.g., between emphasizing God’s immanence and his transcendence). Overall Kauflin does a good job of handling these tensions. A few times, however, his balancing seemed less thoughtful than it ought to have been. For instance, on inward and outward worship, Kauflin says that clapping, and other outward expressions of worship, must not be ignored in modern American worship because they appear in Scripture. But he fails to ask important questions that are necessary for careful application. For instance, what was the clapping? Was it applause? Was it to keep rhythm, as is still the practice in some cultures? Was it something else or some of both? Without asking these questions, one may assume that applauding a musical performance is more in keeping with Scripture than not applauding special music–but the assumption would be ill-considered. But for the most part Kauflin’s handling of tensions is well done. He recognizes that in some of these pairings, one element is more important than the other. For instance, in dealing with whether worship service should be targeted to believers or unbelievers, Kauflin rightly says, "Let’s not ignore non-Christians when we gather to worship God. But let’s not allow them to dictate our direction, methods, and values either. Those have all been determined and modeled by the risen Savior" (204).
How should those who disagree with Kauflin’s approach to musical style view this book? First, most of the book is not about musical style. Furthermore, Kauflin does seek to ground what he writes in Scripture. So much of this book is quite helpful. Second, we should be willing to be self-critical regarding our music. Traditional is not a sufficient standard for a church’s music ministry. Kauflin is careful enough with the content of the music in the worship services he leads that it is possible that the content of his worship music may be more substantial than the gospel songs that many musical conservatives employ. This could lead to an uncomfortable situation in which some people feel as though they must choose between a worship service of theologically rich but stylistically objectionable music or a service of theologically shallow but stylistically traditional music. Those of us who object to contemporary worship music should must ensure that this is not a choice that people feel themselves faced with. Third, the section on musical styles should be recognized as one of the weakest parts of the book. The attempted Scriptural argumentation is thin and theologically flawed. In sum, this book is overall quite helpful while being flawed in a few significant areas.
Hugo, Victor. Les Miserables. Translated by Charles Wilbour. 1862; Repr., Modern Library, 1992.
Philips, Robin. "Scripture in the Age of Google: The Digital Bible and How We Can Read It," Touchstone (July/August 2012): 40-44.
Argues that the medium by which we read affects the way in which we read. He notes that writing without word separations led to oral rather than silent reading (though I understand this is now debated). Until producing and disseminating text became affordable (the printing press being one but not the only factor), people would read a few texts, but they would read them deeply and repeatedly. Later, when newspapers and periodicals came into being, people read widely and less deeply. The internet continues this trend. With hyperlinks and other distractions, digital reading is not conducive to concentration in reading. I think Philips is right to consider the influence of the medium on the way we read. However, I’m not convinced by all the applications he drew. I was able to read a scan of his article on my iPad without loosing my concentration. I will, however, probably not read his periodical article more than once.
Wood, Gordon S. "Is There a ‘James Madison’ Problem." In Liberty and American Experience in the Eighteenth Century. Edited by David Womersley. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006.
Wood argues against attempts to say there were two Madisons: the Federalist Madison of the 1780s and the Republican Madison of the Federalist 1790s. He also argues against Banning’s proposal unifies Madison at the expense of his nationalism in the 1780s. Instead Wood argues that Madison in the 1780s saw the dangers of democracy leading up to the constitutional convention. He wanted a strong national government to serve as a disinterested umpire between the conflicting interests in the states. This goal lies behind his advocacy of a strong national government. However, he never wanted a strong European-style military state. When he saw that was the government that Hamilton was seeking to create, Madison staunchly opposed him. Wood proposes that Madison’s vision of government remained consistent, though the opponents he faced in these differing decades resulted in differing responses.
Goldingay, John. "How Should We Think about Same-Sex Relationships?" In Key Questions about Christian Faith: Old Testament Answers. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010.
Goldingay, an Episcopalian OT scholar, though this issue by looking at First Testament (his term for Old Testament) and New Testament teaching on the matter and then at the present cultural context. He notes that if the stories of Noah and Ham and the stories of Sodom are rejected as not being analogous to same-sex marriage (because of the rape elements), so also Ruth and Naomi or David and Jonathan cannot be appealed to as analogous same-sex relationships since there is no physical relationship in these cases. Goldingay also discusses Lev. 18:22 and 20:13. He grants that these prohibitions are tied in with prohibitions that no longer directly apply to Christians. In their First Testament context however, Israel is prohibited from things that don’t "fit into creation" (with some animals serving as examples of this). Goldingay notes that "Humanity should fit into creation. Homosexual acts do not do that" (321). He does not wish to place the weight of his argument on these passages, however. He places much more weight on the First Testament’s vision of what marriage should be. He notes that our culture assumes that marriage is all about romance and choice. But while the First Testament gives romance its place, it is a subordinate place. Goldingay says, "In Genesis, God instituted the sexual relationship as a means of implementing the divine purpose to subdue the earth and serve the garden. To that end this relationship involves a mutual commitment to forming a new context in which children may be born, nurtured, and taught the faith and may share in the work" (321).
In turning to the New Testament, Goldingay notes that we find confirmation that same-sex relationships are not in the same category as food laws or clothing laws. This is evident in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Timothy 1:10. Romans 1:24-27 continues to indicate that same-sex relationships go against nature, which means it is contrary to the way God made human bodies and the creational purposes for which he made sexuality. Goldingay recognizes that there is another way in which our culture speaks of same-sex attraction as natural for those who have them. Goldingay counters, "But then, for a heterosexual person, heterosexual relations are natural, but we do not reckon that this means we can simply do what comes naturally irrespective of moral considerations" (323). It is important to note that Goldingay also warns that much heterosexual sexual activity also falls outside of God’s creational purposes. He suggests as possibilities: adultery, polygamy, incest, prostitution, divorce, remarriage, masturbation, living together before or without marriage, and the deliberate lifelong avoidance of conception" (323).
Goldingay was much more fuzzy on the place that those in same-sex relationships or with same-sex attractions should have within the church. He clearly things that overseers and deacons should be held to a higher standard in this matter (1 Tim. 3:2, 12). He does not think he ought to leave the Episcopal Church over the issue. His primary counsel is to show love to those with same-sex attractions while maintaining that they have not made "an equally-valid lifestyle choice."
This raises the justice issue. Goldingay notes, "The freedom of people of differnet races to marry is a justice issue on the basis of a certain understanding of humanity. Same-sex marriage is a justice issue only if one first presupposes that marriage does not integrally involve two people of the opposite sex" (325). Goldingay also notes that our cultural understanding of justice differs from the biblical understanding. We tend to equate equality and justice whereas the Bible indicates that justice is acting "in a way that does right by the people to whom one has commitments, and in in particular that implements a concern for the needy."
Goldingay, John. "What Is the People of God? (A Narrative Answer)." In Key Questions about Christian Faith: Old Testament Answers. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010.
Goldingay outlines his narrative answer in the opening pages of this essay: "These epochs [in Israel’s history] brings a change in the mode of being of god’s people. It begins as a family (mishpakhah), one of the families of the sons of Shem (Gen 10:31-32), The fulfillment of God’s promise makes it more than a family, a people (‘am; e.g., Exod 1:9; 3:7), and indeed a nation (goy) alongside other nations, a political entity (e.g., gen 12:2; Judg 2:20). The monarchy turns it into a state, a kingdom (mamlakah and // related words; e.g., 1 Sam 24:20; 1 Chr 28:5). The exile reduces it to a remnant (she’erit and other expressions; e.g., Jer 42:2; Ezek 5:10). It is restored, to its land and to its relationship with Yahweh, as something more like a religious community (qahal; e.g., Ezra 2:64; Neh 13:1)" (76-77). The rest of the essay unpacks these categories and discusses their present day relevance. Goldingay does not find them universally relevant to the church, since they are historically conditioned.
Goldingay, John. "What Is Israel’s Place in God’s Purpose?" In Key Questions about Christian Faith: Old Testament Answers. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010.
Goldingay answers this question with "four polemical theses": (1) "The Jewish people is still God’s people but is destined to come to recognize Jesus (190); (2) "The Jewish people still has a claim to a homeland in Palestine" (196); (3) "Commitment to the Jewish people does not imply commitment to the state of Israel (202); (4) "Israel’s destiny is secure, but its present is dependent on its decisions (206).
Under the first thesis Goldingay argues that God still has a place for Israel as a distinct people. He finds Romans 9-11 clear on this point. He nowhere finds the New Testament affirming that the church has become the New Israel (he understands Gal. 6:16 as Paul "seeking god’s mercy on Israel as well as on believers in Christ; p. 192, n. 7). He also reject two covenant theology, in which Israel relates to God apart from Christ.
Goldingay argues in the second thesis that the New Testament does not say the land promise was fulfilled in Jesus or that it was a symbol that has now been supplanted. He takes the New Testament’s silence on this issue to mean that the promise still stands.
Goldingay argues in the explication of his third thesis that the first two theses do not imply that the State of Israel is the fulfillment of God’s promises. He does not believe that the land promise necessarily includes a state, for Abraham did not live in the land in a state, nor did the returned exiles. He notes further, that God recognized the rights of previous inhabitants to the land in Abraham’s day. Israel had to wait four centuries before God gave the land to them because it would not have been right to drive out the other inhabitants until their iniquity was full. Finally, Goldingay says that Israel was supposed to be a blessing to the nations, and Israel is not now a blessing to the Palestinian people. Goldingay recognizes that Israel has a legal right to the land, and he also grants that Israel’s expansion came though defensive wars. But it seems that he would prefer a combined state of Jewish and Palestinian peoples living together peacefully than even a two-state solution.
In his fourth thesis Goldingay argues that the State of Israel is not guaranteed the land by God. Though God’s promises stand, neither God nor the church can accept uncritically the actions of Israel. Sometimes words of judgment need to be spoken and not words of comfort alone. He concludes with an appeal for peace for Jerusalem for both Jew and Arab.
Goldingay, John. "Is Election Fair?" In Key Questions about Christian Faith: Old Testament Answers. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010.
Goldingay asks this question in light of the conquest of Canaan. His ability to answer this question is marred by a willingness to evaluate God’s actions by a standard other than Scripture. He does not help himself by leaving the historicity of Joshua an open question.
Hamilton, James M. "Was Joseph a Type of the Messiah? Tracing the Typological Identification between Joseph, David, and Jesus," Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 12.4 (2008): 52-77.
Hamilton, Jr. James M. "The Typology of David’s Rise to Power: Messianic Patterns in the Book of Samuel," Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 16.2 (2012): 4-25.
In the final footnote for the article on Joseph, Hamilton thanks Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum "for insisting on textual warrant for typological interpretations." My sense was that this was too often missing in these articles. I recall a reviewer of Peter Leithart’s commentary on Kings saying it was worth working through all the implausible typological connections for the 1/3 which were right. I have the same sense with these two articles by Hamilton.
Poythress, Vern S. "Gender Neutral Issues in the New International Version of 2011," Westminster Theological Journal 73 (2011): 79-96.
After noting improvements in the NIV 2011 over the TNIV, Poythress documents verses in which he thinks gender neutral translations have obscured the text. Poythress also offers an evaluation of the Collins report on gender neutral language and potential problems in the statistical analysis which was done.
Warfield, Benjamin Breckinridge. "Jesus’ Mission According to His Own Testimony." In The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield. 2:255-324. 1932; Reprinted, Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003.
Warfield begins this three-part article by critiquing a similar project by Harnack that proceeded on critical grounds. In the second part of the article Warfiled expounds a series of passages in which Jesus says why he came to earth (these passages and their synoptic parallels):
Mark 1:38—He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” (NASB); cf. Lk. 4:43.
Matthew 5:17-18—"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished."
Matthew 9:12-13—But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Luke 12:49-53—“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Matthew 10:34-36—“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.
Luke 19:10—For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Matthew 20:28—even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
When put together, it is clear that Jesus came to preach of the kingdom that arrived in his person, to fulfill the law, and to rescue sinners from their sin so they can be a new called out people opposed by the world, and that he achieves this through his sacrificial death.
In the third part of this article, Warfield draws some broader theological conclusions. He notes first that Jesus had a clear messianic consciousness. Second, he notes that the "I have come" passages imply pre-existence.
Zaspel, Fred G. The Theology of B. B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010. [Read sections on historical context, apologetics, prolegomena, and bibliology, pp. 15-175]
Zaspel does an excellent job of comprehensively systematizing and summarizing Warfield’s thought. This volume is valuable as a reference work for those who are interested in tracking down what Warfield wrote on various topics and where he wrote it. But Zaspel’s summaries are valuable in their own right. I remain unconvinced of Warfield’s apologetic approach, in which he finds it necessary to establish Scripture as authoritative prior to any theologizing. But his doctrine of Scripture itself is masterful. It fully takes into account the complexity of Scripture’s teaching regarding itself as a divine and human book. Peter Enns, Kenton Sparks, and others who challenge the doctrine of inerrancy need to more fully reckon with Warfield’s arguments for their dismissal of the historic doctrine of Scripture to have credibility.
Johnson, Luke Timothy. The First and Second Letters to Timothy. Anchor Bible. Edited by David Noel Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 2001. [Read introductions and commentary on 1 Timothy 1-3]
Johnson is a critical scholar who is unconvinced of the arguments against Pauline authorship of the letters to Timothy and Titus. His critique of the reigning critical view and his arguments for Pauline authorship are careful and insightful. His critical proclivities emerge however in his comments about the role of women in the church.
[Lloyd-Jones] was not discouraged, why should Christ’s church today be dismayed at the enormity of its problem? The post-war world, the Huxleys, the Keiths [proponents of evolution], the schools and colleges with their often agnostic professors, the cinema, the dance, the football craze, the motor urge, the hypocrites and their doubts—these were the . . . modern problem, but why should we forget the infinite power of God?
Iain Murray, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years, 1899-1939 (Banner of Truth, 1982), 252.
DeYoung, Kevin. Why Our Church Switched to the ESV. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011.
A helpful, non-technical comparison between the ESV and NIV that shows the benefits of a translation that seeks to remain transparent to the form and metaphors of the original languages when possible.
DeYoung, Kevin and Greg Gilbert, What Is the Mission of the Church? Wheaton: Crossway, 2011.
See previous post.
Webb, William J. Corporal Punishment in the Bible: A Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic for Troubling Texts. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2011.
William Webb applies his problematic Redemptive-Movement hermeneutic to corporal punishment. The central problem with his approach is that it seems difficult to avoid a Whiggish view of history (or in this case, ethics) with this kind of hermeneutic. He seems to imply that the judicial use of corporal punishment on criminal adults is ruled out with the redemptive-movement at its present stage. But why should an increasingly secularized 21st century West determine this. Why not a more Christianized 19th century? Or why the West; what of the East? Corporal punishment is still practiced in Singapore. Which is more humane, locking up people up in prisons for extended periods of time or instituting corporal punishment for certain crimes? These are questions that Webb fails to wrestle with. He also unhelpfully mixes discussions of child-rearing with passages that seem to deal with criminal punishments. He furthermore gives his readers false options by implying that either one adopt his redemptive-movement hermeneutic or accept as still valid various provisions of the OT Law.
Fitzpatrick, Elyse M. and Jessica Thompson. Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011
The discussions of the law and the gospel could have benefited from some recognition of the third use of the law. Nonetheless, as the practical discussions unfolded, it seemed that this category was implicit. Readers would also benefit from reading and keeping in mind John Frame’s cautions on redemptive-historical preaching as they read this book. As with redemptive-historical preaching, the emphasis here is on the indicative, and there should be some cautions about not avoiding the imperatives for fear of moralism. Those caveats given, this is a good book. The overall thrust of the book is that parents should not try simply to produce good children. They should instead seek for gospel opportunities in discipline situations. This does not mean that discipline disappears but rather that it is contextualized with the gospel. The book also stresses that following the right formulas will not necessarily produce good children but that God’s grace is necessary to transform children’s hearts. Thus parents must consistently pray for God’s work of grace in the hearts of their children.
Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti. An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Ecumenical, Historical & Global Perspectives. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2002.
Good overview of various ecclesiological proposals and the state of the discipline. Negatively, it is slanted toward unorthodox views.
Ryle, J. C. Expository Thoughts on Matthew. 1856; repr., Banner of Truth Trust, 1986.
Ryle designed this work for family devotions and it is worthy of continued use for that purpose over 150 years from its original publication.
Hannah, John D. An Uncommon Union: Dallas Theological Seminary and American Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.
Hannah provides an interesting institutional history. It doesn’t have the same narrative quality as George Marsden’s history of Fuller Seminary or Gregory Wills’ history of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Hannah goes into more detail about curricular changes and other details which break up the narrative. But the discussion of how Dallas emerged from the Bible Conference movement and developed in relation to fundamentalism and evangelicalism was interesting. Hannah placed Dallas somewhat between fundamentalism and the neo-evangelicalism spearheaded at Fuller Seminary.
Goheen, Michael W. A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011.
I think this has been the most disappointing and most profitable book that I’ve read recently. Disappointing because I came to the book with high hopes and found that I disagreed with his basic thesis. Profitable because it is not only full of wise thoughts but because even when I disagreed I found my thinking helpfully provoked. Goheen did not convince me that the church is defined by its mission. It seems that the church most be more than a “come and join us people.” Its definition must include the what for which people join. Nonetheless, missions is vital to the church, and Goheen’s discussion of mission and missions remain helpful. I also disagree with Goheen’s relation of the church to Israel. This ended up being a major theme of the book. Nonetheless, Goheen has sparked an interest into researching further OT prophecies about the role of Israel in spreading the gospel to the Gentiles.
Wilson, Douglas. What I Learned in Narnia. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2010.
One of the reasons Lewis’s books are so enjoyable for Christians is that they help them see with fresh eyes the foolishness of evil and the wisdom of a God-oriented life. These lessons are not sermonizing within the stories. They are baked into the narratives themselves. And they are the kind of things that stick in the mind and are recalled unbidden when similar circumstances or ideas arise in real life. Wilson highlights these lessons in this book. An enjoyable read.
Schreiner, Thomas R. “A Biblical Theology of the Glory of God.” In For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper. Edited by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.
A helpful overview of the centrality of the glory of God in every part of the biblical storyline/canon.
Dever, Mark. “The Church.” In Understanding the Times: New Testament Studies in the 21st Century: Essays in Honor of D. A. Carson on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday. Edited by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Robert W. Yarbrough. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011.
A basic unpacking of the doctrine of the church in terms of its four ancient attributes and two/three Reformation marks. Includes helpful thoughts on church membership
Kidd, Reggie M. “What John Frame Taught Me about Worship.” Speaking the Truth in Love: The Theology of John M. Frame. Edited by John J. Hughes. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2009.
He likes Frame, Clowney, Old, and Webber. But the essay is pretty thin on content.
Wolters, Al. “Reflection by Al Wolters.” in Four Views on Moving beyond the Bible to Theology (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology). Edited by Gary T. Meadors. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.
When I referenced this book for my dissertation, I found that Wolters had the most perceptive reflection on the four views presented. In the dissertation, I drew on him for his critique of Vanhoozer’s theodramatic view. This time I read him to refresh my mind on his critique of Webb. Here too he was perceptive. He notes several problems with a redemptive-movement hermeneutic: (1) It treats ANE ethics monolithically. There were multiple ethics in multiple cultures. Further, some may have been more advanced that Israel if one assumes the “ultimate ethic” that Web lays. (2) His approach depends on the Bible reader having access to ANE background information that many ordinary readers don’t have access to and that even scholars did not have access to before the nineteenth century. Even today scholarly knowledge of the ANE is patchy. (Wolters is clear that he is not against making use of ANE background materials.) (3) “There appears to be no standard by which to measure what an ‘ultimate ethic’ might be. A clue to what is in fact the implicit and unacknowledged standard for Webb is provided by the proximity in the diagram of ‘Ultimate Ethic’ to ‘Our Culture.’ To be sure, the latter is qualified by the words in parentheses: ‘where it happens to reflect a better ethic than Y,’ but no criterion is provided by which we can judge that ‘our culture’ on this or that point reflects a better ethic than Y. This is a remarkable statement when we recall that Y represents ‘the concrete words of the text,’ that is, the biblical text. For all practical purposes it seems that Webb’s ‘Ultimate Ethic’ is pretty well equated with ‘Our Culture,’ at least insofar as the latter is the bearer of human and liberal values. It looks for all the world as though the values ‘we’ hold trump the explicit ethical instruction of Scripture” (p. 306).
McDaniel, Stefan. “Flogging: The Best Hope for Our Broken Prison System?” The Public Discourse (2011).
It was interesting to happen across this article shortly after having finished Webb’s book on corporal punishment. It comments on Peter Moskos’s work, In Defense of Flogging, which raises the issue of whether flogging might be more humane than locking people up in prison. He tentatively proposes the flogging be an option that those convicts who are not a danger to society may choose instead of a prison term. This is interesting because Webb rhetorically reacts in horror at the idea of corporal punishment as a punishment for adult criminals. But what if Webb’s trajectory toward from Scripture toward our culture isn’t a trajectory to that which is more humane after all? This article at the very least raises that question.
Campbell, Donald K. “The Church in God’s Prophetic Program.” In Essays in honor of J. Dwight Pentecost,. Chicago: Moody, 1986.
Lewis, C. S. “The Inner Ring.” In The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. HarperCollins, 2001.
An excellent application of the tenth commandment to friendship. The best fictional correspondence to this address in Lewis’s writing is the character of Mark Studdock in That Hideous Strength.
Osborne, Grant. “Hermeneutics and Theological Interpretation.” In Understanding the Times: New Testament Studies in the 21st Century: Essays in Honor of D. A. Carson on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday. Edited by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Robert W. Yarbrough. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011.
When I was writing my dissertation on theological interpretation of Scripture, I found the literature so voluminous and diverse that I struggled in finding a structure for my analysis. In the end I focused on the role of tradition, the place of pre-critical interpretation as it relates to authorial intent, and how theological interpretation relates to biblical and systematic theology. I was therefore pleased to see that Grant Osborne’s survey of the same material covers these same key areas. Furthermore, I think he points his readers in the right direction on every point. He sees tradition as valuable but supplementary to Scripture, which retains its primacy. He argues that seeking authorial intention is correct and viable. One difference is that he seems to see Childs as a move forward after the collapse of the Biblical Theology Movement. I think that Childs carries many of the same weaknesses. That criticism aside, Osborne’s introduction to theological interpretation is a fine one.
Strange, Dan. “Not Ashamed! The Sufficiency of Scripture for Public Theology.” Themelios 36, no. 2 (2011): 238-60.
Strange provides a description of both Common-Kingdom (emphasis on natural law as the authority for the common kingdom) and Confessional-Kingdom (emphasis on the authority of Scripture for all of life) models of engagement with public life. He sides with the Confessional-Kingdom approach. His survey is helpful and his application to the UK is useful even for those in the USA.
Bookman, Douglas. “The Scriptures and Biblical Counseling.” In Introduction to Biblical Counseling. Edited by John F. MacArthur, Jr. and Wayne A. Mack. Dallas: Word, 1994.
Bookman’s concerns are entirely valid. But in making his case, Bookman seems overly reliant on arguing the definition of terms (while granting what many would identify as general revelation and its application in four affirmations), and even these definitions receive only the most cursory support from Scripture. Bookman’s discussion of general revelation would have been stronger if it had focused on the key general revelation texts, and his case against integrationist counseling would have been stronger if it focused on the substantive issue of psychological theories being equivalent to a theology rather than being revelation itself.
Mayhue, Richard L. “Is Nature the 67th Book of the Bible.” In Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth. Master Books, 2008.
Mayhue provides an able refutation of Hugh Ross’s claim that nature is the 67th book of the Bible. But he seems to overly limit general revelation in a few places. First, when he says that the breadth of content for general revelation is limited to knowledge of God alone, this seems to rule out natural law (though he grants Romans 2 deals with both general revelation and moral standards). When he says that the corpus of general revelation does not grow over time, Mayhue excludes history from general revelation. He says he does so on the basis that history does not show up in Ps. 19:1-6; Acts 14:17; 17:23-31; Rom. 1:18-25; 10:18, but I would have benefited from some further discussion on why many theologians include history. Does Mayhue think they wrongly see it in the texts he examines; does he think they wrongly see it in other texts that do not teach general revelation? Mayhue then says to expand general revelation beyond special revelation adds to Scripture. But this is not clear. Scripture is special revelation and general revelation is not. These reservations and questions do not affect Mayhue’s case against Ross; Mayhue successfully refutes Ross’s claims.
DeYoung, Kevin and Greg Gilbert, What Is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011.
DeYoung and Gilbert argue that the mission of the church is the Great Commission: “the mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering those disciples into churches, that they might worship and obey Jesus Christ now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father” (p. 241). Much of the book provides helpful responses to those who extend the mission of the church so broadly that the core of the Great Commission is minimized or lost. They convincingly argue that the missio dei and the mission of the church do not necessarily coincide, that incarnation is not the best metaphor for church ministry, and that Stott’s interpretation of John 21 is not the most accurate. They could have made their argument stronger, however, be canvassing Acts and the Epistles for further indications of the church’s mission.
According to DeYoung and Gilbert, the gospel can refer to all the good that results from God’s plan of redemption, but they rightly center the gospel on the provision of atonement and how it may be received by individual humans for salvation. They tell the story of Scripture as centered on humans and sin rather than on creation and corruption. This is basically correct, but there does seem to be some overcorrection on this point. The Creation Blessing/Mandate gets little play in the redemptive historical survey chapter. In a later chapter it is reduced to something that Adam failed to do, that no other human is tasked with doing, and that the Second Adam will accomplish apart from our work. This incorrectly ties the Creation Blessing with Adam’s probationary test. Genesis 1 and 9 present the Creation Blessing as something that all humans have, even though it is now twisted by the Fall. It is not uniquely Adamic.
DeYoung and Gilbert view the kingdom of God as a spiritual reign of God in men’s hearts. While Ladd, whom they draw on, is correct that “reign” rather than “realm” is foremost in the NT concept of kingdom, it is difficult to reduce the NT teaching about the kingdom to the spiritual realm alone. Involved is the regeneration of all things. They do get this right in their chapter about the new heavens and the new earth, in which they carefully delineate what we can and cannot say about continuity and discontinuity between the two. DeYoung and Gilbert rightly correct loose talk about building the kingdom or bringing in the kingdom and instead point out that Christians await the kingdom. Even so, there ought to be an emphasis on living consistently with the anticipated kingdom in one’s present vocations.
Two chapters cover the important topic of social justice, and a third deals with doing good works. They show both what social justice passages demand and they correct sloppy interpretations and applications of these passages. DeYoung and Gilbert helpfully show how to avoid pitfalls that equate social justice with particular political programs. They distinguish between the institutional church and the organic church and note that Christians as individuals sometimes must do certain things that the institutional church is either forbidden or permitted but not required to do.
Overall, DeYoung and Gilbert have tackled a complex subject and gotten a great deal right. What is more, they have offered a correction to common misconceptions. They could make their argument stronger in the future by reconsidering their treatment of the extent of the Creation Blessing and of the nature of the kingdom. In the end, however, they have provided a useful, readable contribution to a complex subject.
Michael Goheen’s book, A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story insightfully relates the theme of missions to both Israel and the church. Yet at a few points it may be asked if mission ends up overriding other necessary aspects of the church.
For instance: “At its best, ‘missional’ describes not a specific activity of the church but the very essence and identity of the church as it takes up its role in God’s story in the context of its culture and participates in God’s mission to the world” (p. 4).
John Bolt and Richard Muller question the legitimacy of defining the church’s essence in terms of mission:
“In simple language, what we are determines how we can act and what the result of our activity will be. The marks of the church indicate her fundamental identity, and her identity is the basis for the performance of her task. The opposite model, where the doing of a task is posited prior to careful statement of identity, or where identity is defined in terms of a task, can lead and historically has led to disastrous consequences. A redefinition and revision of the church’s task, framed primarily by numerical growth for example, threatens the very essence of the church. After having led converts to a new and different place, we may well discover that this is not a place where the Word is truly preached and the sacraments rightly administered. We have then arrived if not at utopia, at ucclesia, a nonchurch. The point here is that the expression a ‘mission-shaped church’ is vacuous. A church cannot remain church unless it is shaped by a mission that is itself shaped by the church’s essential identity.”
John Bolt and Richard A. Muller, “Does the Church Today Need a New ‘Mission Paradigm’,” Calvin Theological Journal 31, no. 1 (April 1, 1996): 204-205.
Michael Goheen lists and describes a variety of images of the church that are shaped more by the current culture than by Scripture:
- Church as mall or food court: Malls offer a variety of consumer goods, and similarly food courts offer a number of choices. Likewise the church provides a variety of programs to meet the religious needs of the congregation.
- Church as community center: Various institutions . . . exist to meet social needs and organize themselves around the hobbies and special interests of their members. In this model the church becomes a hub for its members to meet social needs as the organize around a shared set of beliefs and a shared religious interest. Various programs are conceived for youth, singles, young married couples, and other groups to meet their various social needs.
- Church as a corporation: Corporations are rationally organized for growth, profit, and the efficient marketing of their product. Often church leadership and organization are oriented toward efficiency rather than pastoral care and missional leadership. They are organized to market the religious goods they can offer.
- Church as theater: Theaters are places where people are invited to sit back and passively enjoy various kinds of entertainment. Often the way we structure our worship spaces and liturgies makes our ‘worship’ look more like occasions for entertainment.
- Church as classroom: Educational institutions continue to dominate Western culture. Within a consumer framework, they offer teaching and insight for living. This may well reflect one of the consumer items the church has to offer its constituents through Bible study and teaching.
- Church as hospital or spa: A hospital is a place of healing, and a spa offers an opportunity for rejuvenation in a stressful world. The church is a place of spiritual healing and rejuvenation.
- Church as a motivational seminar: In our self-help-oriented world there is no shortage of motivational seminars to help improve various dimensions of our lives. The church can offer these too, from tips on better parenting to ways to improve your marriage.
- Church as social-service office: The social-services arm of the government exists to take care of the weak, the needy, and the poor. The compassionate church concerned for diaconal mercy in its neighborhood may come to resemble this kind of institution in its care for those in need.
- Church as campaign headquarters or social advocacy group: A social-advocacy group or political party promotes its particular brand of political economic, or ecological justice. In this mode, the church assumes this role, organizing pressure for a more Christian society.
Goheen recognizes that some, though not all, of these items contain aspects of church ministry that are essential (e.g., teaching). He identifies the problem: “The problem arises when the biblical story and the nature of the church are forgotten; then these activities are shaped by a different story and lose their authentic ecclesial form.”
Michael Goheen, Light to the Nations (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 15-16 (bulleted items quoted verbatim).
The early church saw itself in light of the concept of "resident aliens" (παροικοι). "The primary sense of paroikoi* is that of a redemptive tension between the church and its cultural context. These early Christians understood themselves to be different from others in their culture, and lived together as an alternative community nourished by an alternative story—the story of the Bible—that was impressed on catechumens in the process of catechism. The entire catechetical process had this pastoral purpose: to empower a distinctive people shaped by the story of the Bible."
*Note 10: "Paroikoi is the Greek world found in the New Testament (e.g., 1 Pet. 2:11) and often early church literature. It carries the sense of both being at home in a place and being a foreigner."
Micahel W. Goheen, A Light to the Nations(Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 7.
One of [Machen’s] students recalled his saying that
“the great Dr. Hermann presented his position with such power I would sometimes leave his presence wondering how I could ever retain my confidence in the historical accuracy of the Gospel narratives. Then I’d go to my room, take out the Gospel of mark and read it from beginning to end at one sitting—and my doubts would fade. I realized that the document could not possibly be the invention of the mind of a mere man.”
Machen came to see that Herrmann’s position was fallacious for two reasons. First, the picture of the ‘liberal Jesus,’ which called forth Hermann’s unbounded reverence, was a fictitious creation. Second, the type of religious experience that Ritshclian liberalism endeavored to conserve was hardly true Christian experience. It knew nothing of the biblical view of sin and redemption through the death of Christ.
David B. Calhoun, Princeton Seminary: The Majestic Testimony, 1869-1929 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1996), 230.
Because the liberals of Machen’s day were so pious, many in the churches would not remove them from the church. But if the liberals’ reverence was directed toward a “fictitious creation” of their own making, it was not praiseworthy but idolatry.
At this year’s MACP Dr. Compton gave an excellent paper correlating three major church discipline passages relevant to the doctrine of separation. I think Dr. Compton’s handling of these passages is one of the best I’ve seen (though I’d differ a bit with how he tied the passages together on the last page).